#Bond_age_ celebrated Sean Connery’s birthday a little early in order to accommodate a screening of ZARDOZ into the live tweet schedule. But it is August 25th that belongs to Slouchy. You’ll find plenty of websites celebrating the big day with facts you didn’t know about Sean Connery or favorite Sean Connery quotes. I struggled to decide how best to celebrate this birthday. We joke about Sean and use the “Slouchy Bond” nickname because it’s fun to joke Sean Connery’s place in the James Bond universe because, well, it’s less interesting to cite Connery as the best Bond.
The fact of the matter is that he is the best Bond. He and Terence Young molded Fleming’s prose into the most famous hero in the world. Later on in his career as Bond, the relationship between the man and the films turned rather sour. I can’t blame him, honestly; the script for You Only Live Twice should have felt like sandpaper between his nether regions.
If you want to learn more about his potential career as a footballer or his rumored encounter with Lana Turner’s gangster boyfriend, I trust you’ll know how to find Wikipedia. Right now, however, I’d rather share an interview from 1964 that still finds Connery talking about the success of James Bond with much respect for the franchise. It seems more fitting for #Bond_age_ to celebrate the life and times of Sir Sean Connery with a moment reflecting the man’s sincerity and intelligence at a moment when everything was right in the world of Bond.
He has a reputation for being a brute in a suit. Sometimes, likely due to his Diamonds Are Forever contract demands, he has the reputation for being a bit of a scrooge or a premadonna. From what I’ve read, it seems more like Sean Connery is a man of principle. He’s true to his beliefs. He’s confident and cocksure, perhaps to a fault. He’s a man who could tell 1000 tales, and we’d listen intently to every single one.
From everyone at #Bond_age_, happy birthday, Sean Connery.
The year was 1966. The year prior, Thunderball had just become the biggest James Bond in history (and held its title until Skyfall). The cinemascape had become saturated with spy flicks — both sincere… and not so sincere. If I had to pinpoint one year as the pinnacle of IMPOSTOR! that year would be 1966. Our Man Flint. Quiller Memorandum. Modesty Blaise. Funeral in Berlin. Just to name a few. On February 18th, 1966, Dean Martin appeared in The Silencers, the first of four appearances as Matt Helm.
Though not apparent at face value, Matt Helm and The Silencers has many direct ties to the James Bond series of films. Producer Irving Allen had been a partner with Cubby Broccoli in Warwick Productions. The partnership broke up due to Broccoli’s prolonged family drama (his first wife was diagnosed with terminal cancer) and because Broccoli desperately wanted to buy the rights to James Bond. Allen had no interest in a supposed “action-adventure” film.
The pair actually met with Fleming at Cubby’s urging. In this meeting, Allen told Fleming his novels weren’t even “good enough for television.” A costly commercial failure later (The Trials of Oscar Wilde), the partnership dissolved in bankruptcy.
Broccoli, of course, went on to start Eon Productions with Harry Saltzman, shepherded to screen by United Artists. Irving Allen struck out on his own. His most notable release after the break was a wildly inaccurate historical epic about Genghis Khan. After observing Broccoli’s success with the Bond series from afar in 1962, Allen began thinking about his own spy series. This led him, eventually, to Donald Hamilton.
Hamilton wrote about a dark, brooding American spy. He was to Matt Helm what Ian Fleming was to James Bond. Each put a lot of themselves and their WWII experiences into their creations. Both were former military servants turned novelists. One American and one British. Hamilton had been a chemist in the Navy and began writing heavily during his time of service.
Hamilton’s early output belonged to the Western genre, but after the success of Ian Fleming, he began writing spy novels based on his own experiences in the War. While Fleming’s James Bond lives the life of a playboy assassin — the stuff of male fantasy, Matt Helm exists in a place of dark malaise. Helm has semi-retired from his Nazi-killing ways to a life of convenience in Santa Fe with a wife and kids. Globe-trotting to Helm meant ratty motels in the armpits of the world.
And so Irving Allen cast Dean Martin. Obviously.
Allen had a reputation for being anywhere from abrasive to a complete asshole. When Allen stumbled upon Hamilton’s Matt Helm novels in an airport, he believed Helm would be the perfect American counterpoint to James Bond. Allen purchased the rights to the eight Helm novels and found a partner in Columbia Pictures who’d also passed on Bond. The two parties were an ideal match, forged in purgatorial regret and relatively empty coffers.
Turning to A Streetcar Named Desire‘s scribe Oscar Saul and noted film noir director Phil Karlson (who’d been rejected for the Dr. No gig due to salary demands), Allen had every intention of making his Matt Helm films a goddamn series spy incarnation. Then Allen hit a snag. Tony Curtis, Hugh O’Brien, Richard Boone, Paul Newman all turned him down. Either they were involved in their own pet projects at the time or they balked at the notion of being a second-fiddle Bond. Suddenly, Allen’s goddamn serious spy series became a spoof.
If you can’t beat ’em, spoof ’em.
Dean Martin feared his film career had ended with the dissolution of his partnership with Jerry Lewis, but he still feared that Allen was either a complete buffoon or yanking his chain. Why would he — charismatic drunk and lounge singer — ever be asked to play James Bond? So Dean Martin made a number of outlandish contractual demands to test the producer. Allen accepted, much to Martin’s surprise. The script transformed from brooding film noir to Dean Martin lounge act overnight with Martin himself bringing in his Rat Pack team of writers to “Dino” it up a bit.
Instead of a married man living in Santa Fe, Matt Helm became a swinging, alcohol-fueled bachelor living in a state-of-the-art lovers paradise. James Bond as technicolor lounge lizard. Critics considered the film both an affable spoof of 007 but also a cheap, distasteful attempt to cash in on the spy craze. And that’s exactly right. The Matt Helm films are, from our perspective, 1960’s exploitation. Campy and ill-conceived, viewers are merely meant to enjoy the parade of scantily clad women and cheap, boozy gags. Despite the critical division, audiences embraced Dean Martin as Matt Helm, turning The Silencers into a $16million success (the equivalent of $120million in 2016). The film resulted a financial windfall for Irving Allen, Columbia, Dean Martin and Donald Hamilton, who saw the popularity of his books spike in the wake of the film.
And then the Go-Go Dancing Stopped.
The Matt Helm film series would continue until 1968 with the fourth and final film, The Wrecking Crew. Though the film had announced a fifth Matt Helm called The Ravagers, dwindling box office returns and his sick mother caused Dean Martin to step away from the role. Silly spoofs had also fallen out of favor. The assassinations of JFK and Martin Luther King, Jr. The Vietnam War now a fixture of the country’s collective conscience. The murder of Sharon Tate (who’d appeared in The Wrecking Crew) likely proved to be the tipping point for Irving Allen. Allen tried to revive Helm in the 1970’s but the tone of American cinema had shifted. Only Hamilton’s original Matt Helm could have a place in the dark and dour American spy films of the 1970’s. Bond, of course, endured, with Roger Moore acting as counterprogramming. But Bond is Bond and Matt Helm was Dean Martin. Allen attempted on final Matt Helm revival on television with Tony Franciosa in the lead. The ABC series lasted for 13 episodes during the 1975-1976 season before being cancelled.
I might be conflicted about Guy Hamilton’s contributions to the Bond series, but he was intermittently a mighty fine director (and from what I hear a wholly standup fellow). Many might not know this, but Cubby wanted Guy Hamilton to direct Dr. No. Hamilton declined, but Cubby continued to consult with the director about the tone and look of the series throughout pre-production.
It was Hamilton that took one look at the humorous elements Cubby wanted to inject into the film (making the villain a monkey, for example) and told him to start over, to return to Ian Fleming’s text for inspiration. I give more credit to Terrence Young for creating cinematic Bond, but Guy Hamilton was an indispensable part of the whole.
Hamilton directed four Bond films overall (Goldfinger, Diamonds Are Forever, Live and Let Die and The Man with the Golden Gun) in addition to Funeral in Berlin (one of the Harry Palmer films starring Michael Caine) and another #Bond_age_ favorite, Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins.
Guy Hamilton was also the original director of Superman (1978), but had to relinquish the post to Richard Donner because the production moved to Pinewood Studios at the 11th Hour. Since Hamilton was at the time a tax exile he could not ultimately direct the film.
He began his career as an assistant director to Carol Reed, working on films such as The Fallen Idol and The Third Man. Quite an impressive resume builder.
Guy Hamilton passed away Wednesday at the age of 93 on the Spanish island of Majorca, where he also lived.
Guy Hamilton on the set of The Man with the Golden Gun, alongside Cubby Broccoli, Britt Ekland and Roger Moore.
Social media exploded on Monday with wild conjecture about the next James Bond. When my Twitter timeline flooded, I knew that one of two things had happened. Either Daniel Craig had made another statement suggesting he’d cannibalize himself than play Bond again or an online rag had posted more clickbait about a high profile actor who called his stockbroker and inquired about the fiscal utility of high yield bonds. (Is “fiscal utility” a thing? Because it certainly sounds important.)
The Next James Bond: A #Bond_age_ Special Report
The fuel for the most recent bonfire was a comment from Tom Hiddleston to the Sunday Times where he said playing Bond would be an “extraordinary opportunity” if “it ever came knocking.” The question arose in reference to a TimeMagazine poll about which actors readers would like to see as James Bond. There were more than 100 candidates on the list. Tom Hiddleston was one of them. Angelina Jolie appeared on the same list and, well… she has a few barriers to entry. Like having been born in Los Angeles to American parents. (You thought I was going to talk about the ovary situation, didn’t you?) Online publications jumped on the Hiddleston comments claiming the actor was asking – nay, begging – to play Bond, like a short, impish schoolboy in the back row of the classroom trying to get his teacher’s attention to go potty.
The Interwebs have been ready to boil over ever since the Guardian ran the big, bold headline: “Daniel Craig: I’d rather slash my wrists than play James Bond again.” Social media latched onto this headline without investigating further, and thus the notion that Craig was absolutely positively done with Bond became etched in Internet stone. (more…)
You old so and so. Technically we celebrated the special occasion #Bond_age_ style with the Layer Cake live tweet last week. We don’t know if Craigers is done with Bond. Hell, I don’t even know if Craigers knows if Craigers is done with Bond. Nonetheless, let’s take some time to wish our reigning Bond a happy 48th birthday and enjoy 10 fun facts about Craigers that you may or may not have known.
1. Craigers made his film debut in The Power of One (1992) as Jaapie Botha, an Afrikaner sergeant.
Three years ago, I spewed a Dr. No Live Tweet to an unwitting Twatterverse. It was just me and @jennjaysleafs on the first Wednesday in December talking Bond and spinning yarns. On that Wednesday I embarked on what was to be a 23-week project — to live tweet each Bond movie and write a blog post about each per week. This was a break from my regular fiction writing. I was burnt out, angry, and incapable of completing new projects. I had a book of 80,000 words I hated, a few short stories on the back burner. I thought a 23 week break from all of that would do me a heap of good.
Let me repeat that one more time. 23 weeks.
156 weeks later, here we are. We’ve live tweeted each of the James Bond movies (and Danger: Diabolik!) at least three times. We’ve crowned a Tournament of Bonds Champion (From Russia With Love). We’ve crowned a Tournament of #Bond_age_ Tweets Champion (@TravisSMcClain and his comment on Commie etching and sketching). A few of us have even become talking heads on an ill-advised Podcast. We’ve even spun off new adventures on #Bond_age_TV. I’ve written about each Bond movie. You’ve written about your love for each Bond movie (even Die Another Day!). I’ve shared my affection for Bond, argued the finer points (and the less fine points), and learned to appreciate the James Bond movies in new and varied ways. Most importantly I’ve met dozens upon dozens of truly amazing Bond aficionados and movie fans. I’ve even met a few of you in real life and become “The #Bond_age_ Guy” (which looks good on paper, but takes on entirely new meaning when spoken). I’ve continued to sail this ship for three years and quite honestly, it’s not even about 007 anymore. It’s about providing a place where we know we can always get together on Wednesday night, maybe share a drink, and connect via this crazy thing called the Twatterverse.
Join me on Wednesday, December 2nd at 9pm EST to celebrate the 3rd #Bond_age_versary with a live tweet of the movie that started it all: Dr. No. Follow the #Bond_age_ hashtag. To everyone out there that’s ever live tweeted a movie with #Bond_age_: I do hope you stop by, for at least a little while and celebrate the ongoing (never-ending?) live tweet project that you had a hand in building. And to anyone that’s never done Bond with us, it’s never too late to jump in and enjoy some good #Bond_age_.
Wednesday, December 2nd @ 9pm EST: It’s the #Bond_age_versary 3 Dr. No Live Tweet